REVIEW: Man O’ War: Corsair

REVIEW: Man O’ War: Corsair

Man O’ War blends Mount & Blade trading and combat aspects with Warhammer Fantasy lore, and even though it’s not a GOTY, open-world gamers will love it.

Author: Millerbertinho
Steam: Released
Type: Single-player
Genre: Action, Adventure
Developer: Evil Twin Artworks
Publisher: Evil Twin Artworks
Release date: 19 Apr, 2017

What is it about?

Man O’ War: Corsair is an epic naval combat and adventure game set in the Warhammer Fantasy world, where captains can play as they wish in an enormous open-world continent featuring over fifty sea ports, from Erengrad to Sartosa, including all the dangers and seafaring hazards imaginable in such a magical world. The idea of Warhammer Fantasy and seafaring in a game will definitely win over anyone who has an eye for Warhammer games or is simply a fan of a long-lasting persistent gameplay, where roleplaying is a crucial part of the experience, allowing players to choose what they will do to survive in such a dangerous setting.

Captains are given tremendous freedom when choosing their adventures, going from simple courier missions to raiding trader ships, or aligning with Chaos to bring despair into the hearts of villagers as their town is barraged and raided by an overwhelming naval fleet of Khorne, spearheaded by a player captain. While raiding cities and ports are not Chaos-restricted activities, the nature of the Chaos fleets makes them interesting for players looking for an aggressive and war-based playthrough.  While normal factions are governed by diplomacy, Chaos is pledged to destroy all. Man O’ War: Corsair shines when considering the role-playing aspect, but the amount of content and activities is also refreshing, as open-world games require special attention to make vast open areas interesting, and not mere filler.

Warhammer Fantasy has that feeling of a middle ages era with backward technology, inquisitorial thought police, poverty and lengthy sea trips that would last for months and bore anyone to death. The depiction is pretty much accurate, except for the latter, as Man O’ War: Corsair proves the waters of Warhammer Fantasy are not boring and dull at all, as they tend to be plagued with giant monsters that will attack unsuspecting captains at the first opportunity.  Greed often brings captains from far lands with hefty cargoes looking for a quick buck,  only for them to meet the hazards of the Old World. Piracy is a great danger for traders, as they wander in groups looking for traders to board and raid. Greenskins, motivated by their never ending desire for fighting maul “dem hummies” to death. The Dark Elves capture sailors to be used in long torture sessions to prolong Elven immortality, as a terrible fate awaits the souls of dead Dark Elves. The Followers of Chaos attack and murder simply to appease their Dark Gods. Megalodons hunt for their next crunchy human meal. Nurglite diseases and plagues spread from town to town, bringing zombifying magic to docks.

Warhammer Fantasy provides a very grim and diverse lore that games can use as base for their backstory, and, given how huge the lore is, it can provide enough content and design options to create almost any kind of game, but does Man O’ War: Corsair excel in any other field apart from the open-world RPG gameplay? It surely has its moments of glory, but unlike our Protector of the Empire, Emperor Franz, it’s glory has limits, and it shows.

Man O’ War: Corsair feels sore in areas that, if done well, would have made the game much better. It’s impossible not to compare an open-world RPG like Man O’ War: Corsair to Mount & Blade, given their similarities in commerce and design decisions. Those who have visited a town in M&B, Warband at least, know how unlively and robotic they are, and Man O’ War: Corsair falls victim to the same thing. Randomly spawning residents moon-walking around, hitting obstacles — yet continuing to walk — are a rather common sight, and don’t feel surprised after docking to repair the damages that defending the shipyard from Khornate Fleets inflicted only to find the town is business as usual. There might be a dozen plus warships outside that are only a handful of kilometers from the shipyard. Sure they are thirsting for blood, yet business is as idly moving along inside the town. No panic in the streets or comments from citizens. A famous bounty hunter with a lot of fame points? No one cares enough to comment or greet. Of course, this isn’t a major issue, but given how immersion is needed to create an entertaining open-world experience, it does not help.

Man O’ War: Corsair has an interesting concept behind it, and will pick the attention of any Warhammer Fantasy fan or lovers of seafaring, but how well received it is? According to SteamCharts, in the Last 30 Days, there were 11.3 average players. In July 2017, there was a special sale called “Skulls for the Skulls Throne“, which resulted in a +14.37% increase in players. In June 2017, a Nurgle Campaign was added, but provided no change in popularity, as the average players were 12.1, a -47.48% difference in comparison to May 2017.

Tools of Trade

In Man O’ War: Corsair, commerce is one of the most important things to do in-game, and not only that, it also brings together all other mechanics into cohesive gameplay. Artificial Intelligence hauling cargo from distant docks will attract piracy, which in turn will attract bounty hunters and the eyes of the local authority, creating conflict that will then attract warmongering greenskins. The commerce is set in a way that one thing leads to another, and it’s determined heavily by supply and demand and local variables. A port suffering from the plague will have interest in acquiring basic supplies, therefore creating an attractive opportunity for profit from privateers faring the Old World. While bringing in basic survival supplies, such as food, captains may be able to shelter residents escaping from a plague, that, even though seems like a very profitable opportunity, is undermined by greed to lead to an ultimate doom. The plague will have no trouble spreading from port to port, creating a cycle where goods are always in high demand, but neatly compensated by its dangers.

Similar to Mount & Blade, certain ports produce certain types of goods, creating a local supply and demand chain where the locally produced item goes for a low price but everything else is costly, allowing courageous captains to make easy profit from trade. Hauling cargo from a metal-mining port to a jewelry-creating region will pay well, as the latter has the active need for metals to do their craft. Commerce is determined by the interaction of captains and ports and the active trade between them creates a changing world where its possible to profit from famines and plagues, but not without a good dose of danger during voyages.

Warhammer Roleplaying

Warhammer is a high fantasy fictional universe first released by Games Workshop back in 1983, it’s background is set in a fictional version of Europe, inspired by the empires of the Middle Ages, with clear traces of Tolkien’s Middle-earth influence. Warhammer Fantasy portrays a very grimdark background world where death is commonplace and dangers are everywhere, be it from rampant chaos and greenskin armadas looking to destroy and plunder anything in sight simply for the sake of it. As it’s a 34-year-old franchise, it has seen hundreds of releases of rulebooks and guides that include new regions and events portrayed, creating a solid founding background for games, given how well it can be adapted. One such popular adaption that showcases the flexibility of  Warhammer is called “Warhammer 40,000“, which displays humanity in galactic warfare forty millennia into the future. This enormous background makes Warhammer Fantasy a beloved piece of entertainment for RPG fans, and given that Man O’ War: Corsair is not only based on Warhammer but is also an open-world RPG, a large audience of players can create their own storylines and do their own exclusive playthroughs.

Creativity and individual imagination is an important part of enjoying an open-world RPG game, as any fan of the genre can confirm. Open-world games can, very often, be identified as sandbox, which means it’s ultimately up to the gamer to pick their own goal for their playthrough and create their own storyline. This is a bit troublesome for those that prefer to play games which specify an order to do things, but, given how popular the genre is, most love it!

Open-world games tend to have enormous replayability, with the possibility of playing multiple times under different roles. Dishonored may not be an open-world game, but it does have a sandbox aspect allowing people to make their own choices on how to play it, ultimately creating their own ending. Skyrim and the Fallout series may have incredible storylines, but it’s the roleplaying and immersion from optional quests in the sandbox open-world that makes them truly great. M&B would be the perfect example, without any sort of storyline apart from the given lore, players are given a permit to play as they wish.

Every playthrough can be played differently, and Man O’ War: Corsair incorporates this aspect by allowing multiple initial objectives which, paired with the big open-world continent of Warhammer Fantasy, create a charming adventure.

Prepare the cannons!

The de facto most important part of Man O’ War: Corsair has to be the cannon fights. Most of the in-game time will be spent travelling through the salty waters of the Old World, be it bringing diplomats over for a crucial State meeting, or just hauling good old cargo, Man O’ War: Corsair will have captains spending most of their time in the sea, and given how dangerous the Old World is, it shouldn’t be a surprise that cannon fights are a frequent occurrence. Maybe an imperial patrol slips up and allows a Chaos warship to pass-through a blockade, thirsting for easy prey, only to meet a player ship barely staying afloat with as much cargo as it could hold. What comes next is obvious: “Enemy ship sighted, Capt’n! Prepare the cannons!”.

Few games are focused solely on naval warfare like this. Even fewer get it right and bring out exciting cannon fights. For example, while portraying naval warfare on the individual sailor level, Blackwake is a recent surprise in gaming, where a compelling teamwork atmosphere crafts an enjoyable experience. On the other hand, there is Assassins’ Creed Black Flag which had it at the captaining level, bringing intensive gameplay where agitated waters made ships feel dynamic and realistic.  Coupled with noisy cannons, this made for some incredible naval warfare, albeit too fast paced.

Man O’ War: Corsair‘s naval warfare functions in similar fashion to AC – Black Flag, and one could even say it’s inspired by it, except for the lack of that cinematic AAA je ne sais quois, but nonetheless it is enjoyable and rewarding. Just as in Assassins’ Creed Black Flag, there is a diverse array of cannonball types to choose from, each with their own advantages, and similarly, cannon adjustment works the same way — an angled arrow showing where the projectiles will land. Man O’ War: Corsair adds it’s own spin to it, though, including wind variation and slower-travelling projectiles to add more challenge and help make combat last longer.

Those who were in love with AC3/BF naval warfare will come to enjoy Man O’ War: Corsair’s naval warfare, even though it doesn’t feel as dynamic and boarding combat is clunky, it’s definitely fun.

Final Thoughts

While rough around the edges, Man O’ War: Corsair provides solid entertainment for hours, and has great replayability to keep it fun for a long time! Not only am I a fan of open-world games that manage to focus on commerce while keeping challenges and surprises around the corner, I also have a deep love for Warhammer. Although my personal preference is for Warhammer 40,000, Warhammer Fantasy does the trick just as well when looking for a less modern W40K background, fitting seafaring amazingly! Man O’ War: Corsair isn’t perfect by any means, and even though I may have some positive personal bias, it cannot be rated more than a Save For Later, as it feels a bit incomplete at times, especially when missions finish abruptly when docking and are mostly very grind-intensive.

Fans of Warhammer Fantasy will have no trouble enjoying the game if they can look beyond some flaws, which are nothing game-breaking. Reviewing an open-world game is always a challenge when considering length. There is always a lot of content to write about, but as always, the most important points should be enough to convince someone to buy — or not buy — the game.

Written by
Dead Parrot
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